Walt Disney World & World Travels

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As a former Disney Cast Member, I’ve always refused to go to that “other park”, they were the enemy, opening Universal Studios the summer I was on the College Program at Disney.   Now that I’m more “mature”, and with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; it was time to give in and spend some time at Universal.

Our vacation happened to line up for the week of the grand opening of Harry Potter.  I knew the park was going to be packed beyond packed so I did what any good travel agent would do and researched my options.  The three Universal Resort Hotels offer what looked to be the answer: a Universal Express pass that allows you to skip all of the lines on participating rides AND gains you early entry in to the park.  I also knew that you could buy a head of the line pass, but at $60-$87 per person per day, it made more sense to look at staying on site and getting all of the resort benefits.  I also learned that the pass you can buy, is not exactly the same as the one included for resort guest.  The “bought pass” is only good for 1 day, and can only be used once per ride/attraction.  The resort guest Express Pass is good from check in through check out and can be used multiple times on the rides/attractions.   The three resorts are all owned/run by Loews Hotels, a company known for very nice, deluxe hotels.  Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Portofino Bay Resort.

I ended up splurging a little and booked a night at the Portofino Bay Resort.   This is a beautiful resort, that is built to be reminiscent of a sleepy seaside village, Portofino, Italy.  The rack rates are a little bit pricey, but there are some good deals to be had and the benefits of staying on property are well worth it!  A quick overview of resort benefits:  Universal Express Pass (good from check-in through day of check out), good for multiple uses, 1 hour Early Entry into the parks (makes all the difference in the world if you want to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter), complimentary transportation to the parks by boat or bus, room charging privileges, and priority seating at certain restaurants.  That can be very useful!

Our stay at Portofino Bay Resort was a little unusual; we were only there for 1 night during the middle of our vacation, so we didn’t get to enjoy the resort as much as I would have liked to.  We arrived and checked in at 8am.  Check in was very quick & easy.  We were given our room keys (but not the room number as it wasn’t ready yet).  The room keys work as your Universal Express Pass, with a bar code on there that is scanned at each ride.  Our luggage was given to bell services, the car handed off to the valet and we were given directions out to the boat that would take us to Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure.  We were so excited about getting to the parks, that we might not have seen a whole lot on the way to the boat but what we did see was absolutely beautiful!  It felt like we were in an Italian seaside town.  We made our way to the boat dock and I noticed a few things right away that I was impressed with: there was a canopy area with benches and fans.  On a super hot day, that was really appreciated!

We spent the day at both parks; Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure and took advantage of another resort benefit, early entry into the park.  We went straight back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and when we showed our room keys we were sent a different way and straight in before the park “officially” opened.  I’ll write about Wizarding World and all of the rest of the parks in other posts, but for now I’ll just say WOW!!!! The Universal Express pass allowed us to skip the regular line for most rides in the park (very few don’t have an express line) so we were able to get a lot done in a short amount of time.

After a very full day visiting the parks, we went back to our resort looking forward to having some dinner & pool time.  I had received a call on my cell phone early in the day informing me that we would need to come back to the desk for new room keys, so that’s where we went as soon as we got off the boat.  We recieved our room information and a porter got our luggage and gave us a tour of the resort on the way to our room.  The service was wonderful, but I did feel that the room was 6 miles away from the desk.  The room was actually in a very good location for convenience to the pools.  We had a view of the villa pool from our room, which was very nice.  Standard rooms are 460 square feet (good size!) our deluxe room was 490 square feet with 2 queen beds and a (requested, not guaranteed) sofa sleeper.  The bathroom had separate shower & tub, super soft cotton robes and the 13year olds’ favorite thing a telephone in the bathroom.   The room was beautiful and the beds were the most comfortable beds ever!

We got settled, changed into our bathing suits and headed to the pool to relax and have dinner.  Yes, you read that right we were going to have dinner at the pool.  There is a pizza place, casual restaurant next to the Beach Pool.  However, they were closing as we got there so we went to Sal’s Market & Deli (on the other side of the resort).  Ordered pizza & salad, and brought it back to the pool to eat.  Sat at a table overlooking the pool and the movie by the pool (Harry Potter that night), it was very relaxing and the food was excellent.  The pool area was very nice, lot’s of tables, lot’s of chairs & chaise lounges.  There is a sandy zero entry area, several hot tubs, a kids pool and a Roman Aquaduct Slide.  My family loves slides, and rates all of them.  This one was allright, but not great.  It was slow and the pool was not super warm.  The hot tub was very warm and felt great after a long day in the themeparks!

Next to Sal’s Market, they sold gelato.  As a treat, Jon & Megan went and got gelato for the 4 of us to enjoy while we watched the poolside movie.  Super creamy & very rich, the gelato was excellent!  The poolside movie was a great idea, but not executed all that well.  The blow up screen kept deflating because they couldn’t keep it plugged in close enough to the pool (cord was too short).  It was fun, but almost funnier watching the screen deflate.

After a wonderful nights sleep on those super comfy beds, we checked out and headed back to the parks.  The “boys” went ahead and managed to get in for early entry, my daughter & I were a few minutes late and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter had a 4 hour wait at 9am when it opened.  We used our Universal Express passes (good for both check in & check out day) and rode some other rides while the boys spent more time in Wizard World.  After another full day of parks, we rode the boat back to Portofino Bay, collected our luggage from bell services and the valet pulled the car around.  While we waited on the car, another of the valets offered and brought us bottled water.  A very thoughtful and appreciated gesture!  That was a great way to leave, on a high note.

I can honestly say that I will go back, and next time I might need to check out the Royal Pacific or the Hard Rock…..

Here are some pictures of the Loews Portofino Bay Resort and our room:

Pictures from Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort for Meg’s Sweet 16 Birthday Bash


We had an absolutely wonderful incredible time on the cruise and at Disney World!!!!!  I’m still trying to unpack , do the laundry, and upload pictures.   I’ll hopefully start blogging the trip later today.  In the meantime, here is the link to all of the Disney World pictures  starting with the “newest”.

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